One thing I would like to suggest if you visit Germany is to definly try to squeeze in a cruise up or down the Rhine River, even if it is just a day trip like we do so often. There is no better vantage point than from the middle of the River and it is the perfect 2nd day in Germany activity. Nothing to do but sit, relax, have a beer and watch the scenery go by, terraced vineyards and castles galore. We will be going up (south) the Rhine on our upcoming Rhineland trip in a few weeks, from Boppard to Rudesheim and on this last trip we just did we went down (north) the Rhine from Rudesheim to Boppard. It was such a nice day, one of the few cooler days we had, and after arriving in Rudesheim for some quick shopping and a quick drink we boarded the boat and sat and relaxed and enjoyed the scenery and each other. Perfect day.
Our next day was visit to their second hometown which was in France, a little south of Strasbourg in a town called Plobsheim. Since we were travelling into France this time too and it was a small group we decided to rent a van for this part. My trusty, organized partner Matthias came down for the weekend to drive a van full of ladies to France… hahahaha, our only order was we couldn’t talk to him while driving.
It wasn’t a long drive from our home base town now in the Black Forest and we were to meet our contacts at the city hall in Plobsheim. We pulled into the parking lot and here was a contingent of people smiling and waving and we knew we had the right place. The President of the local heritage society was just fantastic!! He had a whole program scheduled for us. We first went in with the group to a meeting room that had tables set with American and French flags and the local Alsatian treats of Kugelhof cake and Alsatian pretzels. The President started off with a welcoming speech in French that a lovely, young girl student translated for us into English. We enjoyed a few minutes here before it was time to take a tour of the town aboard the local transport of a long covered wagon pulled by two horses. So cute. We all piled in with our new French friends and we plodded along the cobblestone streets through the old part of this incredibly picturesque village to stop at three different places our tour members family had lived during his life in Plobsheim. This village is near the River Giessen and we were told that sometimes when the river rose people would disassemble their timber frame homes and move them someplace else. Or at least this is what I understood from the translations, seems like a lot of work but I guess they did it.
So after our leisurely ride through town to see the ancestor’s homes, the horses stopped at a local restaurant that had a huge table set up for us out in their bier garten. It was absolutely fantastic, the table was again decorated with American and French flags and even the little menu holders were ceramic American flags. The menu included appetizers of mini “flammkuchen” this is another dish which originated in Alsace but is found in southern Germany too. They are like pizza but with a cream sauce, bacon and onion is the most famous. They are delicious. Then we were presented with a incredibly large plate of Alsatian choucrote (sauerkraut) and all kinds of sausages and ham. WOW… very good though. Then to top it off we had an ice cream cake. What a meal, it was superb.
The horse and carriage was back for us and off we go to our next adventure, a ride down the Giessen river aboard flat bottomed fisherman boats. Since one of the ancestors had been a fisherman, this was a great experience. So we board the two boats and spend the next hour leisurely paddling down the river. Some folks were bothered by mosquitos but I did not get one bite. Guess I am not sweet enough or it could have been the sweat!! Haha. But it was so cool, even temperature wise a bit, gliding along under the canopy of the trees along the river, and it was so quiet, only the sound of nature. We had a river man who guided the boat through the water while standing with a long pole, kind of like a gondola ride in Venice. Then the most fantastic thing happened, as we ended our ride we floated to the docking area with a lovely flower bedecked bridge in front of us and there were at least 40 people, all cousins of our clients, standing and waving from the bridge. Really unbelievable, we’ve found cousins before but never this many. So they mingled and met on the bridge and we finally made our way back to the city hall meeting room, where we now were met with even more people and we had a big party. Wine and pretzels and kugelhof and kids running around and the President of the Society had made a large pedigree chart on the wall with pictures and all the cousins were interested in how they fit in and it was just something incredibly special. More speeches were made and one of the American sisters gave a very emotional thank you speech and we were all a little teary. What a great day. So we mingled for at least 1.5 hours and when we finally said we have to leave and loaded ourselves into the van and then the topper of the day happened, all these people came pouring out of the building into the parking lot waving the little American flags and saying goodbye to us. This was a fantastic hometown experience.